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NUMC wants to shut down detox unit

January 10, 2012 2:41:41 PM PST
Eyewitness News has learned exclusively of a plan that would drastically cut treatment for drug addicts on Long Island.

It comes at a time when prescription drug addiction and violent crimes are skyrocketing.

"My life was saved here and that's not an exaggeration," said Tom Gallagher, recovering addict.

Tom Gallagher's long road to recovery from addiction began at Nassau University Medical Center, where he presented himself a year and a half ago, in full withdrawal.

"I had cold sweats, I was trembling, I was vomiting so violently that I really thought my eyes were going to explode," Gallagher said.

His drug of choice was alcohol.

After five days on lockdown in the hospital's detox unit, he graduated to rehab.

He's been clean ever since.

But now, with Long Island in the throes of a legendary epidemic of drugs, Eyewitness News has learned NUMC wants to shut its entire detox unit down.

According to three different sources, hospital administrators will ask for state authorization to eliminate all 20 of their inpatient detox beds and 10 of their 30 beds for inpatient rehab.

It's all to qualify for a state grant, awarded for making a hospital more efficient.

"In a time when we have people dying in pharmacies that's probably the stupidest decision they've made all year," said Jerry Larrichuita, union president.

The plan could mean some job cuts, but union president Jerry Larrichuita says he's more worried about collateral damage.

Like the federal agent killed New Year's Eve breaking up a drug store robbery in Seaford, or the four people executed on Father's Day at a store in Medford.

"If ever a time when we need to be able to deal with this opiate abuse that's going on, it's right now. And closing detox centers runs exactly against the entire mission," Larrichuita said.

In fact, in all of Long Island, there are just a few dozen detox beds available to those who can't afford to pay.

NUMC offers the most for now.

But multiple sources say the hospital would replace them all with outpatient care, which Tom Gallagher says never would have helped him.

"If you told me to come back tomorrow maybe I would have made it back tomorrow, but I guarantee I would have drank again that day. And that's not what I needed. I needed medical attention," Gallagher said.

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